It seems as if USA’s ski star Mikaela Shiffrin and Austrian frontrunner Marcel Hirscher were having sort of a private dual to figure out who was enjoying the best season start in recent years!
While Hirscher was celebrating his fifth victory within six week at Saalbach, less than an hour away from his home, Shiffrin remained once more out of reach in Courchevel, France, where she dominated both the giant slalom and the slalom races held a few days prior to Christmas to reach the impressive mark of 50 victories since December 2012 –and 7 since the slalom at Levi, in Finland.
Mikaela Shiffrin has now a good chance to improve that mark with two more technical races left on the program this month, at Semmering, nearby Vienna.
Her level of performance since her recent Super-G win at Lake Louise, in Canada, is striking. In fact the 23-year-old is unbeaten since then in her following four races at St. Moritz, Switzerland, and Courchevel, remaining out of reach in Super-G, parallel slalom, giant slalom and slalom! She now ‘only’ needs a win in downhill and in combined to equal established champions as Janica Kostelic and Tina Maze, who both managed to excel in all established five World Cup alpine disciplines during the same season.
“It’s wonderful to reach that mark of 50 wins, it’s so much more that I could dream about a few years ago,” Mikaela said at the post-race press conference in Courchevel. “I am not so much motivated by statistics, but for sure it’s an impressive figure,” also said the racer from Avon, nearby Vail, who equaled the record of Austria’s slalom star Marlies Schild with her 35th win in that specialty. The American could become soon the sole leader in that esteemed classification.
“I had to fight hard on the slope during both races, especially totally as Petra was so close to me. My main goal before a race mostly is to be very focused and find a good flow between the gates,” she added. “It’s always a fight with myself – in each race the biggest battle is always in my own head if I can do it. I need to ski with energy and inspiration to really enjoy it.”
In Friday’s giant slalom Mikaela beat by a few tenths of a second Bavaria’s Viktoria Rebensburg, the fastest in the morning leg, while France’s Tessa Worley achieved a strong comeback after a small injury to be 3rd ahead of two other established GS specialists, Italy’s Federica Brignone and Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel.
Austria’s two-timer overall World Cup champion Anna Veith was a strong 7th, her best performance in giant slalom since her bad ankle injury two years ago, just ahead of Petra Vlhova.
Another big fight for Petra Vlhova
On Saturday, Petra was once again her toughest rival to lose by only a few tenths of a second while Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter, the reigning Olympic champion in slalom, was a strong 3rd at 37/100 of a second. Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener lead the ‘rest of the field’ in 4th place with a larger delay of 1,14 seconds!
With a total of seven wins since the season start with plenty of competitions left in the calendar until the Finals in Andorra, Mikaela Shiffrin surely can aim to equal her excellent past season and capture a third consecutive overall World Cup title. In the coming days, she will fight for more successes in Semmering, nearby Vienna, where a giant slalom and a slalom are scheduled then on January 1s at Oslo, Norway’s capital, in occasion of the first city event of the winter. So far the champion from Vail Valley already celebrated 14 victories in the calendar year 2018!
Two racers from Czech Republic also entered that slalom race, Gabriela Capova and Martina Dubovska who enjoyed a win in a FIS race in Italy in December. Unfortunately none of them managed to qualify for the second run. Capova also failed to qualify the previous day in giant slalom.
Written by: Patrick Lang